By: Louie Vicchiollo
Talking about bench players minutes with Tom Thibodeau may be akin to speaking with a wall, but the sudden surge of Tyus Jones needs to be addressed. While I would love to try to talk about the overworking nature Thibodeau puts his starters through (Andrew Wiggins leads the league in minutes, while Karl-Anthony Towns is fifth, Jimmy Butler is ninth, and Taj Gibson is 13th), the focus of this piece will be Tyus.
Lets dive in.
Let’s get some of the numbers out of the way here. According to Basketball-Reference.com, of the 34 guards who have played less than 20 minutes per game and are qualified players, here is where Tyus ranks in per 36 minute stats:
It’s clear that of the backup guard group, Tyus ranks high and needs to be appreciated (and played more). In fact, when Tyus is on the floor, the Wolves’ offensive rating is 113.1 and their defensive rating is 109.9, a net rating of 3.2. When Tyus is off the floor the offensive rating increases to 115.0, but the defensive rating jumps to a whopping 116.2 for a -1.2 net rating, while Tyus isn’t an explosive offensive player, his high basketball IQ helps him lead the second unit defense.
While Tyus fits well with the second unit and has been a great spark off the bench this year, seeing him play more with the starters could prove to be beneficial for the 14-10 Timberwolves. In the three games Jones started while Jeff Teague nursed an Achilles injury, the Wolves went 2-1, outscored the Suns, Wizards and Pelicans by 26 points, and Tyus was a +22, +3, and +20 net for each of those games respectively. Here are some more staggering statistics for you: when Jones and Wiggins are on the floor, the Timberwolves have a net rating of +14.8; Jones and Butler give the Wolves a +7.3 net rating; Jones and Gibson on the floor give the Wolves a net rating of +28.3 (!!!). In fact, the only starter-Tyus combination that doesn’t have a positive net rating is Tyus and Karl, in which the Wolves have a net rating of -1.2. While the second unit needs Tyus to facilitate, getting Tyus more minutes with the starters could not only help the Wolves as a whole, but it can also give a recovering Jeff Teague the rest he needs.
The Eye Test
Now that we broken down Tyus’ stats, lets look at a couple of examples of his high basketball IQ. To begin, lets look at the defensive end of the floor and how Tyus' IQ leads him to 1.1 steals per game.
Here you can see Tyus check his man multiple times before being in the right spot at the right time to pick off the bad pass from Jrue Holiday to start the fastbreak that lead to an easy transition dunk for Jimmy Butler.
Here again, Tyus has active hands and picks off the Rondo pass attempt into the post.
Next, lets look at his vision on offense and ability to spread the ball around to his teammates.
Tyus usually is regarded as undersized and unathletic, but this play he not only flexes his court vision and IQ, but makes an elite athlete play an finds Jamal Crawford for the three.
Once again, Tyus finds a cutting KAT for the transition slam.
Jones has no problem stretching the floor and knocking down a three as well.
It is obvious that Tyus belongs with the second unit, and that's where he will get the majority of his minutes for the 2017 - 18 season. With the addition of Jeff Teague in the offseason, along with Aaron Brooks, it looked like Tyus may not even get the second unit minutes, but he has impressed, earned and deserves those minutes this year. Hopefully we can see him mixed in with the starters more often, and that he sees an increase from the 17.7 minutes a game he is getting this year.
He deserves it.